Double respect is due to John Galliano this season. First, it was he who entered the subject of lingerie at the top of fashion's agenda. Back in July, he showed his tailoring-with-underwear Christian Dior couture collection, and since then swaths of designers have being going at it with the visible frillies. Second, for ready-to-wear, he seized his advantage, melding a soft, delightfully thought-out version of the idea into a show with a forties film noir theme.
Galliano said he found the cinematic cue while thinking about Lauren Bacall. "She was a great Dior client; there are amazing photos of her in the salon with Bogart. It was that and Arletty in Hôtel du Nord," he said. That central character—a provocative, smoldering femme fatale with a side-parted, over-one-eye hairdo and red lips—gave him free reign to script a wardrobe narrative. It started with abbreviated wartime trenchcoats, flipped through silver lamé dresses, arrived at a sequence in which the heroine is seen in her scanties, and then followed her out to make a drop-dead entrance in some nightclub or other.
Galliano turned the skimpies—French lace-trimmed cami-knickers and satin teddies—into a contemporary version of this summer's shorts and playsuits, following through with a trousseau's worth of pretty boudoir baby dolls and tiny, fragile flowered chiffon dresses. Cleverly, the transparencies—such as a purple satin bra-and-knicker set, apparently seen through black tulle—were an illusion created by stretch, paneled underlayers, so that the pieces are actually slipped on in one. Stocking tops seen through the sheer panels in a copper lamé dress, and bras and panties glimpsed under a semitransparent tiered blue gown, were actually shadows stitched into underslips.
By night, the glamour was amped up even further, as Galliano put his heroine into a flesh pink corset and a long draped mint green sequin-sprinkled skirt, a Chantilly-smothered basque and black ruffled skirt, and a vamp red satin gown. For perhaps the first time, it meant that Galliano had captured the romantic essence of his Dior couture and made sense of it as fully resolved ready-to-wear. It'll be expensive, of course, but oh so seductive.